by Mary Jane Hurley Brant
Have you ever felt confused when speaking with someone? He or she might be smiling but you were uncomfortable by how they were acting? Well, it might be a passive-aggressive behavior you are experiencing. Passive-aggressive behavior is a manner of interacting with others in passive ways as, for example, “by stubbornness, sullenness, procrastination, or intentional inefficiency.” (Medicine.net) I would add another element: you act out the other person’s anger and they enjoy seeing it.
According to The Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual, passive-aggressive people find it difficult to follow their own goals; they also define themselves in relation to other people but they do it in a negative manner. And because passive-aggressive people behave in indirect ways, they actually expect others to treat them poorly but they won’t fight back directly. Instead, they will do so in a back-door or back-stabbing manner. It’s unpleasant but, when you recognize it, you can manage your response more easily.
For example, passive-aggressive people are often late with commitments and remark, to your understandable statement of annoyance, “Chill out, what’s the rush?” Or they might promise to do something but you end up doing it. “Sure, I’ll vacuum the living room” or “Great, I’ll have that on your desk this afternoon.” Of course none of it happens or by the time it does you wish you had never asked them to help in the first place. It’s a form of control. Procrastination and manipulation are names for this game. And it is a game, a game of aggression.
These unhealthy behaviors typically originate in the person’s childhood where it was unsafe to be direct or, worse, the child was punished or shamed if they were direct and outspoken so they learned to manipulate others to survive. Sometimes this behavioral style was simply modeled by a parent and adopted as the family dynamic. For that reason alone passive-aggressive people have few, if any, real intimate relationships.
As adults, each of us is called to learn good communication skills for the sake of our own self-esteem and the sanity of our mates, friends, families and co-workers. When an individual behaves in a passive-aggressive way with you, take a deep breath and remind the other person that this behavior is disrespectful. When they are sarcastic, don’t ignore it. Simply respond, “Are you being sarcastic?” When they respond yes simply say, “I don’t compute sarcasm. Please be direct.” If the person is a co-worker make certain, when possible, that dealings with them are on paper or with someone else present to witnesses the interaction.
Remember, my Friends, life is precious so spend your time with people who want to connect! People who want to celebrate the beauty of life! People who want to make Every Day Matter.